Whenever I teach an altered book class, some of my students have a hard time when it comes to ripping out the pages. I love the process of deciding which pages tell the story I want to tell. I put the other pages in a file to use later in the process. Turning a special book into art is one of my favorite ways to reuse.
Below is the first book I ever altered. This book is very much about my mom, but I made it just for me. She died three years ago after a long illness. We reached a point when she was completely bedridden and it was so much easier to use other people’s words than our own, so I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd to her each day. We both looked forward to what was going to happen next in our story. Sadness was replaced with anticipation.
When I alter a book, I only keep about 25 of the original pages and use the rest to sew back into my book either as pockets or as words. I think one of the parts I love best about altering a book and turning it into a personal piece of art is when words that were meant to tell a different story tell my story too.
When I look back over the time my mom died and since, I would say this altered book is one of the most important things I did to heal. I went away by myself to a wonderful inn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania called The Artist's Inn. I stayed for three days and sewed and painted in silence. I needed the time alone that went into sewing and tying the edges of each page.
This book is still not quite complete and I don't think it ever will be. I still write a note or two to my mother each year and stick it in the pages. I still go back to The Artist's Inn too, just for a few days of much needed creative silence usually around Mother's Day.
This past weekend, I packed my overnight bag, ready to evacuate if the Delaware River swelled in Irene's wake. There wasn't much in my bag. I packed a few pieces of clothing, contacts, some makeup and this book.